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Millennials are here to stay

Bradley son

My son is a millennial. He always keeps me wondering: Why does he like the new music versus my “old school” music? Why does he post the things he puts on Facebook, or wear the clothing he wears?

NBC’s Saturday Night Live has a skit called “The Millennials.” It was hilarious — and concerning — to see how millennials are viewed as incompetents who may never “get it” in life. I beg to differ. These young people are so advanced beyond their years and have life experiences we never could have handled at their age.

Recently, I had a party for my son’s 24th birthday. I had to address the concerns my neighbors had about the 50 youth at the party causing a disturbance by just standing on my lawn. They were not loud, rude or disruptive. I asked them all to stay in the backyard and just enjoy the day. One neighbor was concerned by all the cars parked on the block despite us all having driveways. Are we simply reacting the same way our parents did when we wore Michael Jackson jackets and fell in love with pagers and the latest boy bands? Or is this something different? I know for sure that we were not as daring, and I wonder what will the next generation be like?

In the past few months I’ve had conversations with millennials around the city and it blew my mind. One young man at a basketball court explained what he feels is wrong with the education system in Detroit in about five minutes. Others told of just how strong they’ve been forced to be due to family issues and lack of a support system. These millennials have raised their siblings, some have raised their parents! Yet no one has raised them. They talked about the lack of support from their teachers, the community, extended family and friends.

“I just want to live, but sometimes I just don’t care about life ‘cause I don’t think anyone else cares.”
“I want to make it and go to school, but it’s like a war zone even in the classrooms.”
“The gangs was all I had. And everywhere I go it’s trouble, and the police just look at us like we are bad.”

These comments make me think: what have we done wrong, as parents, community members, educators, protectors? We have focused on them pulling up their pants for so long that we forgot to support them. We focused on the blurred music they listen to for so long that we have not listened to them.

I have no solid answers but I do know these millennials will be our doctors, nursing home techs and police officers and fight for our country, so I am willing to learn more from them. I will open my doors to them and be an ear and as much of a support as I can. I will engage in conversations that help me understand them and make room for them to let me into their spaces. I will not encourage them to be like me or us but to be the best that they were born to be.

What will you do to change the perception or truth about the millennials? What will you give, what space are you willing to make? You know, they are here and they are not going anywhere.

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